Two Sugars Please

Just Add Sugar — But Don’t Forget to Label It

In the competitive marketplace for food, one thing that a food maker can do to bolster sales is add sugar. That’s why a serving of low-fat yogurt can easily have more sugar than a kid’s cereal like Lucky Charms. Yogurt is a great example of a food with a healthy halo that has slowly turned into a sugary treat.

The proposed new format for Nutrition Facts labels calls out added sugars for this very reason. Consumers are becoming so attuned to the concept of added sugar that no-sugar-added claims were up roughly 60% in new food product launches for 2013. But still, many segments of the food industry are concerned about the impact that calling out added sugar will have. A similar requirement to call out trans fats led to the virtual extinction of trans fats from packaged foods before FDA finally moved to ban them.

Some people hope and others fear that labeling added sugar will have a similar effect. The hope is that market forces will make excessive added sugar rare. Right now, it’s almost impossible to figure out how much sugar is just a natural part of a food product you buy and how much has been added to keep you coming back for more.

At an FDA hearing last week, folks who sell sugar — or add a lot of sugar to their products — protested that this requirement will be unfair to them. Their arguments followed three major themes:

  • It’s too hard to hard to figure out how much sugar is added.
  • They need more time.
  • Consumers will be confused by this information.

We have our doubts about these arguments.

The argument that these people, who are buying the sugar to add to their products, can’t figure out how much they’re adding seems absurd on its face. The cry for more time seems to correspond very neatly with the prospect of a new administration in 2016.

Finally, consumers seem to understand the concept of added sugar quite well. After all, some of these same manufacturers are launching new products with claims of “no added sugar.” You can’t have it both ways.

In the end, food manufacturers that don’t respect their customers — and their health — will lose more than just a squabble over nutrition labeling.

Click here to read more from the Washington Post and here to access FDA reference material on this subject. To read more about the arguments of folks who are selling sugary products, click here. And if you want to listen to the hearing, click here.

Two Sugars Please, photograph © Stephen Bowler/ flickr

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2 Responses to “Just Add Sugar — But Don’t Forget to Label It”

  1. July 06, 2014 at 2:53 pm, Susan Burke March said:

    Great article! It’s so important to support the new food label…and consumers can comment until August 1 2014

    Comment on the FDA website.!submitComment;D=FDA-2012-N-1210-0130

    • July 06, 2014 at 4:49 pm, Ted said:

      Excellent reminder, Susan!